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We can face the world with our drugs drive

THE Philippine National Police (PNP), now headed by Director General Oscar Albayalde, released last Monday the “real numbers” in the government campaign against illegal drugs in the country. From July 1, 2016, to April 30, 2018, the PNP said, 4,251 drug suspects were killed. An earlier report by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) last month said that up to March 20, 2018, the number of persons killed totaled 4,074 – that means 177 were killed this last month.

The first two years of the anti-drugs campaign were highly controversial because of the inability or refusal of the PNP to release reports of the results of its operations. The public could only see what was happening in the streets of Metro Manila and many other towns and cities of the country, with bodies of people shot dead in police raids, including minors like Kian delos Santos of Caloocan City. Even people already in prison were getting killed in the raids.

With no official figures being released during these early months of the campaign, estimates of the number of dead ranged from 9,000 in one report in October, 2017, to an “unofficial count” of 14,000 in another report, to 20,000 cited by one senator. It did not help that the PNP claimed that not one of the deaths was an “extrajudicial killing” or EJK, insisting on an old definition used by the previous administration that an EJK was a killing where the victim is one agitating for a political cause.

In a case filed with the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the PNP drive, the court ordered the PNP to provide it with documents on the number of people killed, complete with dates and places. But the Solicitor General, representing the PNP, filed a motion for reconsideration of the SC order, claiming that the documents contained sensitive information with national security implications.

Now that the PNP, under Director General Albayalde, appears to be more forthcoming, there should no further reason to withhold the documents sought by the Supreme Court. There is need for more openness in the PNP operations, especially now that police excesses committed in the beginning of the campaign appear to have been corrected.

It was this lack of openness in the early months of the anti-drugs drive that led to expressions of concern from some world leaders, including those of the United States, the European Union, and the United Nations. We should now be ready to face the world with our campaign to root out the drug menace in our country, a problem which so many other countries also face today.